Humble Beginnings

  • I was talking with someone recently and they mentioned they'd loved writing programs and hacking their PC as a kid. I could relate to that, but then they mentioned that none of their programs did anything interesting, which made me stop and think. I know I wrote quite a few programs over the years that didn't really do much, but a few were useful, at least to me.

    So thinking back, since I know lots of you had computers when you were younger, here's the poll

    What useful program did you write for fun?

    Or even what was your first program if you can actually remember that. Either way, think back and remember something that you were proud of. And "Hello World" doesn't count.

    I've got two that stand out in my mind. The first was a game I wrote on my Commodore Vic-20. I friend and I really wanted to write a game, so we spent a bunch of time figuring out how to read the joystick from the input and mapping it to movement. We built a basic pong-like game that had one paddle that you could move and it would bounce a ball off it. We developed one wall on the right to stop it, but every other direction would allow the ball to leave the screen. We had a few bugs, but it mostly worked.

    The other was one that I wrote a few years later on my Apple II. It was a program to calculate out Chemistry labs. I could input various values and it would run the calculations through for results. We'd been having issues with our experiments and if we didn't come up with close to the "expected" results, our teacher would penalize us. So we'd "adjust" some of our inputs with this program to figure out where we're made mistakes in class.

    I had a hard time thinking of others. I know we wrote one Dungeons and Dragons like game at one point and I had one later to help manage my exercise routine, but most of the others are a bit of a blur.

    So what types of programs have you written?

    Steve Jones

  • The one program I wrote that *really* sticks out in my mind over the years was one I wrote for a Z-80 Assembler Language class way back in the day...  It was supposed to print your name in big block graphics.  Sort of the "Hello World" of TRS-80 simulated 6-blocks-per-character graphics on a black and white text screen...  Probably the simplest Assembler program I ever wrote, but for some reason that one I remember...

  • My mum used to do an annual collection of charity boxes for the NSPCC and had to tot up and log the amounts by hand.

    I wrote a program on the VIC20 that would keep records and print them out and save them to tape.

    My first experience of the user from hell. I should have taken the hint there and then and become a truck driver!

  • I wrote a game for the Amiga called SlamBall.  SlamBall was a cross between football and rugby and in the game you took the role of manager for a SlamBall team.

    I released it as Public Domain software and it was even reviewed in Amiga Action magazine.

    The most interesting thing about it was the bug I discovered months after release.  I can't remember the exact details, but on very rare occasions it messed up the fixture list somehow and you'd play the wrong team in the cup final.  Something like that, my memory is hazy as it was so long ago.

    I've just Googled for it and I am famous

  • My first program was written in 1974 when we did a week out from sixth form and went to the then North Staffs Poly to do a computing introduction.

    It was in Basic on a mainframe (I can't remember which) using a teletype and I think it was noughts and crosses.

    Whatever it was that week certainly got me hooked on programming and I went on to a computing degree and have been in the business ever since!


  • The one program that stands out for me I started at age 15.  I wrote a BBS program for the Commodore 64, by the time I was done, it turned into 100% Machine Language and I had sold about 20 copies.

  • Interesting poll topic, Steve!

    The first application I remember writing attempted to track weather systems as they traveled on prevailing winds from west the east across the US. It was written in 8K (I think) BASIC on a Southwest Technical Products machine that sported a Motorola 6800 processor and used dots to represent geographic areas and asterices for systems.

    Happy Friday to all!

    :{> Andy

    Andy Leonard, Chief Data Engineer, Enterprise Data & Analytics

  • My first program was a simple math program for my nice who was in 1st grade.

    The program created math problems where you never had to carry over to the next column and you entered the answer from right to left.

    It was written in an early version of Turbo Pascal in DOS 2.1.


  • My first proggy was a handy dandy mortgage calculator. You put in the price, down payment, term of loan interest rate and zip code and it figured out the monthly payment including tax escrow (only for zip codes in my metroplex...Dallas/Fort Worth) and alerted you if your down payment was less than 20%. If it was les than 20% it added in PMI to the payment. Helped us guess what kind of house we could get after we graduated...and then it helped when we were actually looking.

  • There are a few I remember cobbling togethter.

  • I wrote one on the C-64 to generate a full 162-game schedule for a fictitious baseball team to play all the real major league teams so I could play a whole season in Microleage Baseball.
  • When I worked as an intern for the Board of Education in New York, there was a discussion about a culture that expressed all numbers as sums of fractions. My dad helped me figure out the formula to do that and I wrote the program on my Apple IIGS
  • I wrote a program to keep track of attendance and grades for junior high computer science classes. That was on the TRS-80. I shudder to think about that one and how many lines of code it took to simulate basically a database. We've come a long way since then

    Great question, Steve!

  • -- J.T.

    "I may not always know what I'm talking about, and you may not either."

  • I learned to program on a computer called a Mitsui Sord in a language called MBasic. This machine had awsome colour graphics for its day (early 80's) From Hoyle's book of games I built about a dozen card games and an othello game. I still have the disk on which the source code was stored. A massive 8 inch floppy disk that held about 160kb.

  • The one I liked the most was something that emulated the opening screen of the BBC Model B and then saved all text input to a network drive. I went to my computer lesson early, loaded it up on every machine and then stole everyone's passwords.

    I guess that's why I'm not a hacker - all that effort just to access 20 copies of "hello world", the return on investment just didn't seem worthwhile.

    Made me feel mighty machiavellian, mind....

  • LOL - good topic. I wrote a program to select a random three digit number as the lottery was brand new when I was sixteen. My Apple ][ gave me the same number three mornings in a row and I thought for sure that it was some sign of a sure thing. Well that was five dollars wasted on the lottery as I later discovered the random number generator in the Apple ][ wasn't that random. Everyday the first time I ran that program it returned the same value - so much for random.


  • When I was about 7-8 I remember my dad bringing home a Trash 80 to do some work for a computer class he was taking at the time.  This led to the first program I ever had to fix.   It was one of those apps from an old Boys Life mag written in BASIC where you type it all in and it never worked because either the code was wrong or you made a few typos along the way or both.  I don't remember what was it was anymore, but I do remember taking a few days to debug it, and then as soon as I got it working, my brother tripped over the power cord.  That's a lesson I've never forgotten, Save early save often and never let your brother near your PC.

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  • The first substantive program I wrote on my own was an emulation of a board game called Kensington. This was done on a TRS-80 Color Computer with 16K of RAM (and a cassette drive to save your work). It was done purely for

    personal reasons, and my brother and I played it quite a bit.

    Kensington is a strategy board game with an irregular board layout. Basic on the CoCo was interpreted, so the source code took up RAM. Fitting all the logic into 16K required squeezing out as much white space as possible from the sourc code.

    My code is much prettier today, but it won't even fit in 16M!

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